by Kevin Humble
At 2:00 one morning in Jakarta, Indonesia, a mob of approximately 400 Muslims surrounded the house church of one of our church planters. When he peered out the window and saw threatening sticks and stones, machetes and torches, he knew why the unwelcome company was there.
At 2:00 one morning in Jakarta, Indonesia, a mob of approximately 400 Muslims surrounded the house church of one of our church planters. When he peered out the window and saw threatening sticks and stones, machetes and torches, he knew why the unwelcome company was there. He and his wife got on their knees and began to pray. The mob attempted to burn down the house, but the fire would not light. Frustrated, the crowd began to stone the house.
As the men rushed through the front door, the church planter jumped to his feet and was cut in the forehead. Falling to his knees, and convinced that he would die that night, he continued to pray, “God, I am ready for you to take me home tonight, but I pray that where my blood falls here, you will establish a great church for your kingdom and glory!”
After he finished praying, neither he or his wife felt the blows, which began to bounce off of them. Again, growing frustrated, the mob proceeded to destroy everything in the house church and to pile it into a great heap in the living room to burn it. Again, the fire didn’t light. Finally they threw the rubble into the street to destroy it, and it burned. This apparently satisfied the angry mob, and they left.
After this incident, the church planter lost half of his congregation. In the years that followed, persecution in Indonesia grew from isolated incidents, such as this, to mass attacks where, for example, all the churches in the town of Tasikmalaya, or 16 churches in the city of Situbondo, were ravaged by fire. Hundreds of churches were burned in the last decade.
As in many other Islamic countries, persecution of believers does not always result in numerical growth. At times, as history has shown, Christ’s witness has even been wiped out.
The last time Indonesia experienced revival through revolution was in the early ’60s. I was a boy, living on the island of Borneo. During a communist revolt that nearly overthrew the existing government, the government declared that every citizen had to choose one of five religions. At that time, mostly Muslims participated in slaughtering Chinese Indonesians, resulting in the fourth largest genocide in history. Because of the atrocities, a reported 2 million Indonesians—mostly Javanese—chose Christianity as their religion. Interestingly, at that time Christians stood in good favor in Indonesia and were seen as well-educated and nonthreatening in the largest Muslim nation in the world.
Three decades later, volatility and revolt pay another visit, but the climate for Christians is very different. In the intermediate years, Muslim fundamentalism countered the slow, steady growth of Christianity in Indonesia with a resurgence of Islam. Now if a Muslim converts he may lose his position, possessions, and even family. While the educations of many Muslim youth are paid for by the government, Christians are denied prominent positions. Christians are definitely the minority and are even seen as the enemy. This time, will Islam squelch the Christian witness, or, as in the ’60s, could this be the prelude to a mighty revival?
I have observed some of the discouraging results of persecution (such as the closing of some local churches, or the loss of converts), but I have also looked for signs of coming revival. One wondrous result that I have witnessed is unity. The oneness of leaders, pastors, and congregations that occurs when church buildings and even members are attacked and destroyed, is amazing. For example, within a year’s time, all of the churches in one hard-hit city were rebuilt.
This unity, a prelude to revival, is even more significant when viewed alongside what God is doing worldwide. It has become increasingly clear that a key step toward revival is having a church and pastors unified across denominational lines. Isn’t our love for one another a positive sign to unbelievers that we are Christ’s disciples?
Some have said that the church missed out on open doors to revival, such as when General MacArthur gave the plea for missionaries after World War II in Japan, because we did not act quickly enough. In Indonesia, with the escalation of Christian persecution, devastating fires, the worst economic crisis in 30 years, and political unrest, it’s easy to talk of safety issues and contingency plans for missionaries. But I would like to be just as ready for revival. Couldn’t it be just as possible, if not more? Could it be that God is simply waiting for the right responses of prayer and unity on the part of believers, that we might see a great revival, not unlike the early ’60s, that would reach the remaining least-evangelized peoples of Indonesia?
The son of missionary parents, Kevin Humble was born and raised on Kalimantan, Indonesia. Humble, a graduate of Biola University and Talbot Seminary, has been a missionary in Indonesia for six years. He lives in Yogyakarta.
EMQ, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 206-207. Copyright © 2000 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.